RC is currently on the east coast, spending the next week with the Burlington Royals and Wilmington Blue Rocks. On Wednesday, we saw Burlington play its second game of the season, a 6-4 loss to the Danville Braves and the first of what we‘re sure will be many series splits in the Appalachian League this year. Below is a quick analysis of some of the players we saw on Wednesday night.
Henry Arias got the start for the Royals, and he lasted 5.2 innings while surrendering three runs on five hits and three walks. The 22-year old pitched last season for the Arizona Royals, going 4-5 with a 3.59 ERA in 14 games while striking out 47 batters and walking 27 in 57.2 innings pitched. On Wednesday, Arias showed a fastball that consistently sat in the low-90s and topped out around 93 mph. He was also occasionally throwing a hard breaking ball in the low 80s, and although it didn't have a ton of movement, it seemed fairly effective, and he even got a called third strike with it to start the fifth inning. In the sixth, Arias walked the leadoff batter before retiring the next two hitters, but he then surrendered a game-tying line drive home run to Danville's Stephen Shults, ending his night.
Arias had a pretty nice debut
Burlington has two of the Royals' three big first basemen that the club drafted earlier this month. Both Jake Lane (32nd round - Austin Peay) and Brett Amyx (30th round - University of Texas-Tyler) were in the lineup, with the latter serving as the DH. In Tuesday's season opener, Amyx hit a grand slam and drove in five runs in his professional debut. He continued to hit the ball well on Wednesday, as he grounded two singles back up the middle, ending the night 2-for-4.
Amyx stands in at 6-foot-6, 230 pounds
Lane, however, had a night we're sure he'd like to forget. He struck out swinging in each of his first three at bats, and he committed a throwing error in the second inning after failing to corral what looked like a very catchable ball thrown by second baseman Alwin Perez. The Royals were charged with two errors on the play, and Lane was probably lucky that he didn't get both of them.
Lane is no slouch either, at 6-foot-3, 230 pounds
The Burlington outfield might be the most exciting aspect of the club, from a prospect-watching standpoint. Indeed, both David Lough (11th round - Mercyhurst College) and Patrick Norris (16th round - Oklahoma City University) are highly athletic outfielders with excellent speed. In fact, both players showed off their outstanding tools on Wednesday night. Lough went 3-for-4 at the plate, including two doubles, and he made some excellent reads while manning centerfield. His first double was a soft liner into left-center, and even though it wasn't hit deep, he never hesitated around first and made it safely into second base rather easily. His second two-bagger was a shot into right-center that burned the right fielder, and Lough would have probably had a stand-up triple had he not pulled up lame in between first and second. He had to leave the game with what looked like either a cramp or a pulled hamstring, and Neder Severino came in to pinch run for him.
Lough was 3-for-4 before leaving the game with an injury
Norris was 0-for-3 with a pair of walks and a strikeout, but we got to see the switch-hitter fly around the bases on shortstop Kyle Martin's third inning RBI double to left and score standing up. Norris is clearly a gifted runner, and his speed was again on display in the sixth inning, this time on defense. With Danville's dangerous Cody Johnson at the plate, the Royals had Norris playing way off the line in left. Johnson was late on a fastball, however, and he skied a fly ball into the left field corner. Norris got a perfect read on the ball, and darted over to make an excellent running catch right in front of the left field foul pole. It was a high fly ball, but a slower player would have had no chance to make the play.
Norris was 0-for-3 from the leadoff spot, but walked twice and scored a run
And of course, right fielder Wilson Tucker (33rd round - Belmont) also had a nice game. After lining into a double play in the second inning, Tucker stepped up to the plate with a man on in the fourth and hit a high no-doubter into the trees down the left field line. Tucker went 1-for-4 on the day.
Tucker smashed his first professional home run on Wednesday
One player who popped onto our radar with a particularly impressive game was third baseman Antonio Jimenez. Jimenez, a 20-year old who played last year for the Royals in the Dominican Summer League, definitely has the look of a player worth watching. In the second inning, he made a beautiful diving stop on a smash that was heading for the hole, and he hopped to his feet and threw out the runner at first by several steps. At the plate, he batted fifth in the order, and he smoked a line drive double off the left field wall in the fourth inning. That was Jimenez's only hit of the day after going 2-for-4 on Tuesday, but he also came through with a successful situational at bat in the eighth inning, grounding out to second with a man on third base for an RBI that pulled the Royals to within a run.
Jimenez ripped a double to left on Wednesday
The Royals plan to move Jimenez around the infield a bit this season, so he'll also play some shortstop and second base. Usually Dominican players begin in the Arizona League, but the Royals wanted to push Jimenez a bit to see how he responds. He's an athletic looking kid with good speed and a nice arm, and he could be a fun guy to watch this season.
RC will be with the Burlington Royals for three more games this week, so stay tuned.